HOW TO FIND SEMINARS, CLASSES, AND USER GROUPS

Courses that promise to make businesspeople proficient in using microcomputers are springing up like toadstools after a summer rain. They range from a three-day, comprehensive seminar offered for $695 by the staid American Management Associations to a seven-day, Club Med sojourn in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, where, for $499 per person, businesspeople can squeeze in such workshops as "Budgeting/Planning with VisiCalc" and "Computer Software Survey" between sailing and snorkeling. ("Learn hardware and software in your swimwear" is the vacation club's slogan.)

If you are in the market for computer training, you should check out the following:

Continuing education divisions of universities, business schools, and community colleges. More and more, these institutions are offering microcomputer-training courses for managers. Generally, the fee will be in line with other university courses. But, "if you look for this help at a college, make sure the people you are dealing with have real-world experience," warns Edward P. Mattar, president of Westboro, Mass.-based Central New England College, which offers a number of microcomputer-training classes.

Computer stores. Many of the larger retail outlets, such as most ComputerLand Corp. franchises and Radio Shack Computer Centers, offer training. If a store doesn't offer classes itself, it may have lists of area consultants and courses.

Organizations offering courses on a national basis. The American Management Associations in New York City and Datapro Research Corp., based in Delran, N.J., both give seminars in cities across the country, as does Arthur Andersen & Co. And a number of smaller centers have begun to expand. Personal Computer Learning Centers of America Inc., based in New york for example which specializes in teaching business applications has a licensee in Philadelphia and a branch office in Washington D.C. and plans to open in 70 locations within two years. Their courses cost from $175 to $475. Integrated Computer Systems Inc. in Santa Monica, Calif., gives two-day seminars for managers in seven cities for $695.

Regional small business groups. The Smaller Business Association of New England (SBANE), for example, sponsors seminars throughout the year on microcomputers.

Local courses. These can range from inexpensive, six-week classes given at adult-education centers to intensive weekend sessions conducted by independent consultants to ongoing seminars offered by private companies. There are over 1,000 of these private centers nationwide, estimates Jack Bologna, president of Odiorne International Inc., a Plymouth, Mich., consulting firm. Six months ago, there were 500. And, as in any booming market, he points out, "some are really good, some are mediocre, and others are pretty lousy."

To increase your chances of finding adequate training, Eric McFarland, president of MicroResources in Washington, D.C., and publisher of 1Micro Training Bulletin, suggests asking these questions:

* Does the course have a particular focus? Explaining to the instructor precisely what you want is a good first step in weeding out inappropriate choices.

* What are the credentials of the instructors? Does their experience include actual work with businesspeople?

* Does everyone in the class have hands-on access to a computer? Two to a machine is ideal, says McFarland. If one person is unsure of a procedure, the other may be able to help.

* What is the class size? A smaller group will allow for more individual attention and will make it easier for people to ask questions more comfortably.

* Are supplementary or review materials part of the package? Many of the better seminars will provide participants with valuable additional resources. "The fly-by-nighters," says McFarland, "will have 30 people, one little Apple in the front of the room, a two-page handout, and promise you the world in four hours or less."

For those looking for user groups, both PC and PC World, two magazines geared to the IBM PC, have directories of IBM PC groups around the country. These listings are also good starting places for those seeking other groups, since many of the clubs mentioned have a more general focus.

The International Apple Core (908 George St., Santa Clara, CA 95050 [408] 727-7652) is the umbrella organization for Apple user groups worldwide and will provide people with names and addresses of local clubs. Many microcomputer manufacturers keep lists of the clubs that focus on their machines. And personnel at local computer stores may know which groups meet in their area. The 1983 Classroom Computer News Directory of Educational Computing Resources (Intentional Educations, 341 Mt. Auburn St., Watertown, MA 02172; $14.95) contains nationwide listings of user groups, as well as other valuable computer-education information. Since groups are so fluid, however, some of these listings may already be outdated.